In Depth: Dâ€™Julz
Dâ€™Julz is one of a relatively short list of artists who have forged a reputation based around consistency over a career spanning decades. Julien Veniel is the first to admit that despite a twenty year old career, of which much of it has been spent in the foreground of the underground scene, he is not one of the â€śsuperstarsâ€ť of the scene. A certain realism punctuated by self-assurance shines through the Parisianâ€™s character. This is someone who has held down a residency at what is undoubtedly Parisâ€™ biggest club, The Rex, over those two decades, not forgetting his own reputable Bass Culture record label, some marquee releases (â€śDa Madnessâ€ť being re-released in 2013) and a packed tour schedule that takes in regular residencies at the very heart of underground electronic music, Circoloco at DC-10.
Having long been associated with the infamous Parisian nightspot, the club being a focal part of Dâ€™Julzâ€™s career, we were excited to hear that the two had teamed up for the clubâ€™s debut release on their upcoming record label. More often than not such arrangements appear to rely largely on chance with the involved parties fortuitously coming together at â€śthe right time, in the right placeâ€¦â€ť. We couldnâ€™t have caught Dâ€™Julz at a better time with another upcoming residency at Circoloco, the Lola ED Vs Half Baked Sonar party and his collaboration with friend Phil Weeks on The Rex Club Music label. Hereâ€™s what he had to say about the collaborative project.
There has been much excitement at Rex Club launching itâ€™s own record label. Youâ€™re on the burgeoning imprints inaugural EPÂ alongside Phil Weeks. Talk us through how your involvement on the releaseÂ came about.
Well, basically I have been friends with Phil Weeks for many years. Weâ€™ve been doing our own thing; him with Robsoul and me with Bass Culture, he has a very Chicago sound and I have this thing that is maybe a bit more eclectic but, you know, always playing things from each otherâ€™s labels too. We managed to find some things in common in our tastes and last year I released my first EP on Robsoul and when he signed those tracks we discussed the possibility of doing some music together. It was a time last year when I wanted to, for a change, do collaborations. I did one with Franck Roger and because I had been in touch with Phil,Â Â I thought â€śletâ€™s do something differentâ€ť. So the first track we worked on was â€śTwo Miles Awayâ€ť, which is the B Side of the â€śThe Rex EPâ€ť, and to be honest we didnâ€™t really know what to do with that track; we thought of doing a side project under a group name released on a different label to our labels. Then Molly (Emiline from The Rex Club) approached me and said that they were going to start the label and that they wanted something from me, being the main resident, as the first release. At this time I didnâ€™t have my own solo material ready for release but was doing this thing with PhilÂ and thought it would be perfect for the label, as we both have our own night at the club, and so I sent her the first track we were working on and she liked it. After that we decided to do a second track, which ended up being the A Sideâ€¦ she wanted us to choose a remixer and Alec was in touch with David, Trusâ€™me, so we asked him to get on board. It really just worked out, although originally it was just Phil and I jamming in the studio with no idea what to do with the musicâ€¦ it was just perfect timing when The Rex approached me.
Well the thing with music and creative jobs in general is that when you have a specific goal it kind of blocks your path if anything. Sometimes, when doing things without a specific purpose you find that you actually have more freedom. It can just work like that whereby you make the music and then along comes the right project to which it fits. Thatâ€™s the way I work.Cool. So completely unlike almost any other profession where business deals rely on meticulous planningâ€¦
The EP itself seems to embody this philosophy with itâ€™s breadth in sounds from one track to the next. Did you have an idea about how you wanted the release to sound? The B side is certainly a lot darker with a more techno slant to it than the A side.
Originally the idea was that it would be different to the stuff we do as solo artists. The track that you mention to be more techno, that certainly is very different to the stuff that I would usually do and the stuff that Phil would do. I would have definitely not approached it in the same way if I was doing it by myself. The A side though is a perfect balance of the two of us, it highlights my housier side and is very much Philâ€™s area also, so you recognise Philâ€™s groove and base, thereâ€™s the disco loop on top and itâ€™s a bit more uplifting and summery. I donâ€™t know. I just feel for whatever reasons itâ€™s a good combination of both of our styles.
The other thing to consider is that The Rex have launched their label, which has to be representative of all of the sounds they have in the club. Thatâ€™s not only house but also a lot of techno. I think you will see this throughout not only this release but also the next few on the label. I think the second release will be Fred P for example.
And were these the only two tracks or did you make a few and then pick your favourite two?
We only made these two actually. We worked quite fast getting the ideas together but then it took a long time finishing the tracks. We started it before the summer of 2014, we were both touring a lot throughout the whole summer and then didnâ€™t finish the tracks until September. We found it quite difficult finding time when we could both work in the studio together and we really didnâ€™t want to work online, sending parts of tracks to one another. For me itâ€™s really important to have this live energy in the studio. So yeah, we sent the two tracks individually to Molly as we finished them and she liked them both. If she hadnâ€™t I guess we would have made a third one, but she liked both so all good! Perhaps we will work together again in the future, we donâ€™t have anything specifically in mind at present but it could definitely work again.
I guess that whilst you need to knuckle down and make the most of the precious time you have in the studio when collaborating, you still need to have a good vibe in the studio. It has to be enjoyable.
Yeahâ€¦ I mean, even when Iâ€™m on my own it has to stay fun. All my best tracks were made when I was really really getting into them and at some point started dancing in the studio. As soon as it stops being fun, I would say 90% of the time, itâ€™s bad for the end product. At that point you need to stop, work on another track and maybe come back to it later so that itâ€™s still fun to work on it. Being in the studio together is the same thing, youâ€™re in the studio working on a track and after a while youâ€™re stuck or itâ€™s becoming too much like work and at that point you need to try something else. We were very lucky though; we didnâ€™t struggle too much. There was a lot of spontaneity. Itâ€™s dance music right, so you have to listen to it and dance on it right away. The music that we are doing is dancefloor music. Weâ€™re both DJs and thatâ€™s what we know how to do well and so we didnâ€™t think too much, we had to make something that would make us move our ass in the studio you know!
Youâ€™re not alone in your feelings towards the dancefloor as I feel there are quite a number of French DJs with similar philosophies. You mentioned Franck Roger and the Apollonia boys to name a few, who all produce similarly dancefloor orientated music.
Well I still have fun making tracks that make people dance and that make me dance. Thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m good at. There are a lot of other producers like Pepe Bradock who take things to a totally different level and thatâ€™s because they have more of a musicianâ€™s approach to it. It just depends on where you come from and what your knowledge is. I definitely consider myself more of a DJ than a musician, â€śtools with characterâ€ť I would call it. I donâ€™t want to do boring and stereotypical tech house; I still think you can make quality dancefloor music with a bit of soul to it. It doesnâ€™t have to be stupid and boring. Itâ€™s a hard thing to do and thatâ€™s what all of these producers that you mention have in common.
With parties and dancing being at the core of this kind of music, itâ€™s good to hear that things donâ€™t have to stagnate and become samey after twenty plus years of being involved.
Possibly the biggest of all parties isÂ the Circoloco openingâ€¦ Youâ€™ll of course be playing there again this year. DoesÂ thatÂ feel like the start of the summer for you?
Totally. Itâ€™s like going back to school! I mean going back to school is not always fun actually, but going back to Circoloco is a lot of fun. Itâ€™s a great reunion of a lot of artists and friends. I just love playing there and feel really fortunateÂ as a DJ to be able to play there six times a year asÂ a resident. Itâ€™s definitely my favourite club in Ibiza and itâ€™s like being a part of a family. Thereâ€™s a little more to it than just being a resident in a club. The whole approach is really special, and although most of the DJs playing the opening see each other throughout the year, the first one is always a lot of fun. Everybody is still very very fresh. All the people working on the island are there, they havenâ€™t started working yet and theyâ€™re a lot fresher than theyâ€™ll probably be for the closing parties! The first two weeks are actually like a festival, absolutely packed and then the subsequent two weeks are great too because you see people from the island who can have fun partying before the hard work starts.
Any friends youâ€™re playing with who you wonâ€™t have seen in months?
There are loads of people Iâ€™m looking forward to seeing. I mean I hung out withApollonia last month in Miami butÂ itâ€™s always nice to see them even thoughtÂ I see them all the time! Cassy is a really good friend of mine so it will be great to see her, also DJ Qu who I havenâ€™t seen in a while. I havenâ€™t seen Tania Vulcano since last summer. So itâ€™s greatâ€¦we all get along really well. Thatâ€™s the one thing I like about Circoloco, thereâ€™s a mix of styles of music but the vibe is generally positive with a mutual respect amongst all of the artists. I donâ€™t feel any competition or disregard as for whether youâ€™re a super big star or a newcomer. The vibe is just that youâ€™re part of Circoloco and you always feel that there.
So is it this family vibe that makes it so special?
Thatâ€™s part of it but the other part is the history of the club. Even though itâ€™s a big brand with huge line-ups and lots of headliners, somehow the vibe is different to all the other clubs in Ibiza. Itâ€™s difficult to explain, but somehow they have managed to preserve the magic from when they started as an afterparty. To preserve that underground vibe in such a big industry is really quite special but exactly putting my finger on what it is is difficult. The other thing that is very important for a DJ like meâ€¦ Iâ€™ve played all of the other clubs on the island like Space and Amnesia and you always feel like you are there to warm up for the big headliner. You feel very small in that kind of environment but this is something that you donâ€™t experience at Circoloco. They give you your chance and if you do a good job you get a good slot in the future. Itâ€™s not based on where you are in international DJ polls. They change you around from inside to the terrace, from early to late. Iâ€™ve had some great sets there; once I played betweenRichie Hawtin and Derrick May for the closing and thatâ€™s not because Iâ€™m in the top ten best DJs worldwide. Thatâ€™s what I really appreciate, that if you do a good job they will always give you a good slot. I donâ€™t see that in any of the other clubs on the island.
When Iâ€™ve seen you DJ you like to play quite fast. Do you change the way you play for Circoloco?
I started with the early rave scene in the early 90â€™s at which point all of the DJs were used to mixing it up, because simultaneously around that time both house and techno were becoming very popular. We were mixing Underground Resistance withStrictly Rhythm, there was no problem with it. I think Iâ€™ve kept that with me all of my career. Iâ€™m definitely more of a house DJ than a techno DJ but I like to mix it up. I like to build it up and bring it down. When I play Circoloco, depending on the time that I play and the room that I play I will mix it up for sure. For example if I play inside afterDubfire Iâ€™m definitely not going to play deep house; Iâ€™m going to have to bang it a bit more, but Iâ€™m going to do it my way. If I play early on the terrace with the sun down Iâ€™m probably going to play something deeper and warmer. Itâ€™s about choosing from within my range things that are appropriate for the moment. You have to do it in your own way so it still sounds like you though.
Youâ€™ll be playing your tracks out from The Rex release this summer Iâ€™m sure. Have you already tested any of them?
Yeah. I have already played them out quite a lot. I find it a lot easier when itâ€™s a collaboration actually. I have this different perspective on the work when Iâ€™m working with someone. Itâ€™s actually very rare for me to play my own tracks, especially after Iâ€™ve finished making them. Sometimes I have to hear other people playing them to realise that they arenâ€™t so bad! In this case though because itâ€™s not just mine I canâ€™t always see as clearly where it is in the process, so early on we both tried the tracks and found they worked.
A really useful way to use the club environment.
Yeah, I do that too for the mixdown just to make sure that everything is well balanced, for example the kick isnâ€™t too heavy or too loudâ€¦ also for the arrangement you can see what works well and what doesnâ€™t. Itâ€™s the best test to fix little problems. I donâ€™t always have the opportunity to do it but when I do itâ€™s always good for the track.
Ok. So thatâ€™s some of what we can look to expect from you yourself but your record label Bass Culture at present has an old release re-pressed and I know you also like to, in your sets, mix old tracks with the new. Why, up until only the last few years, have we been so obsessed with playing only the latest releases?
I think right now, especially with the vinyl resurgence, I see a lot of experimentation in the younger DJs who are playing 80% old music because for them itâ€™s actually new. They have such easy access to the history of the music and to the records themselves that enables them to form most of their sets with old stuff. I personally always mixed it up, I couldnâ€™t just play old stuff because it would have felt like repeating myself and not progressing. At the same time there are so many amazing older tracks that sound as good, if not better, than the new stuff so why would I stop myself from playing them again. Sometimes I would forget I had those tracks and would stumble across them and they just sound perfect for now. Itâ€™s cyclical too, I think right now the music is sounding a lot closer to the music that was being produced in the 90s. You see young producers who are stopping using computers and just want to work with analogue synths and other hardware because they want it to sound like the old stuff, the stuff they prefer. Right now itâ€™s therefore easy to mix new and old together because a lot of new music is influenced by the old classics. It totally works, with both new and old sharing a common energy.
Personally I donâ€™t think about what is new and whatâ€™s not. If I buy a record itâ€™s new to me regardless. You just have to play what you like if it makes you excited to play it.Â On a separate note the re-issuing on the label is not something that I want to do too much because there is enough new and interesting music. I donâ€™t want my label to be an old school label, I want my releases to be timeless so that you listen to the releases in ten years and still like them. Itâ€™s true though that every now and then I play an older track that people really react well to. In the case of some releases if theyâ€™re difficult to track down and if I know the artist I am happy to re-press it. As I say though, this is something I only do from time to time and not something I want to do too much asBass Culture is primarily a label for new music.
Catch Dâ€™Julz at Lola Ed vs Half Baked Open Air @ Off Week Barcelona 21st June.Â https://www.facebook.com/events/646527265466316/